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Heritage fund paid out $1.5m to projects in East End, figures show

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Ordnance Island Restoration (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

More than $1.5 million has been paid out from a heritage fund over the past six years to help finance East End projects including infrastructure works and the upkeep of a historic church, figures showed.

The money was amassed from a levy on fuel imported to the oil docks at St George’s.

A list of transactions made out of the Unesco World Heritage Fund amounted to $1,572,550 between May 2016 and August 2021.

The fund was set up as a result of the Corporation of St George’s (Unesco World Heritage Fund and Levy) Act, which took effect in April 2014.

It was designed to maintain, develop and promote the Olde Towne’s world heritage site.

The Act allowed the Corporation to collect a levy of a quarter of a cent per litre on certain petroleum imports.

Figures released to The Royal Gazette showed that income from payments made by Ascendant – now known as Liberty – Rubis and Sol totalled more than $2.4 million from April 2016 to November 2021.

The balance of the fund at November 30, 2021 showed total assets of $1.6 million.

The biggest single payment listed was $589,468 made in September 2017 for “dock work” at Ordnance Island and Market Wharf.

St Peter's Church, “Their Majesties Chappell” (File photograph)

Another seven instalments totalling $203,820 were made for the Deliverance and Ordnance Island project.

George Dowling, the Mayor of St George, gave details in October 2020 of an ambitious plan to transform Ordnance Island into a destination designed to showcase its seagoing history.

The fund made a $331,948.91 payment in February 2017 for a project at Hunter’s Wharf, as the construction of a new ferry dock neared completion.

Candy-Lee Foggo, the corporation’s town manager, said that $1.2 million of the Unesco fund would be used to restore a dock and make other renovations as part of plans to develop a superyacht marina in St George.

A further $1.5 million of the $2.7 million price tag is to be met by the Government.

Ms Foggo explained that the corporation will lease the site to St George’s Marina Development company for 21 years less a day.

She said: “With the success of the marina, then the corporation would kind of share in that success.”

Ms Foggo added: “Even though, for now, it’s only going to have to support the size of a superyacht, there may be the potential in the future that cruise ships return to the town.

“We still want to be able to have that option in the event that 20 or 30 years down the road cruise ships come back and they’re smaller – that dock could function as a cruise ship dock.”

Figures showed that four payments totalling $164,070 related to St Peter’s Church.

A church spokeswoman highlighted last week “how grateful the St Peter’s Church community is for the invaluable support” from the corporation as heritage fund managers.

She added: “St Peter’s Church, Their Majesties Chappell, stands at the very heart of the Unesco World Heritage site, the Town of St George.

“Churches today face unprecedented challenges and St Peter’s is further disadvantaged in its extreme age and historic significance.

“It is uniquely positioned as a house of worship and an important cultural attraction, of significance to visitors and residents.”

Gillian Outerbridge, the parish administrator, explained that in 2019 the church was granted money by the fund for tent fumigation and painting at the Edith Clair Spencer Hall as well as for work on the church and reprinting of its brochure.

She said that funding in 2020 was used to “upgrade the church for the important 400th anniversary of the first General Assembly”.

Ms Outerbridge said: “To this end we repainted the church exterior windows, the church tower, installed the accessible pathway into the Black Graveyard, had the 18th and 19th- century brass chandeliers polished and rehung, completed the interior marble memorials, painted the church interior walls, the hall interior walls, the bathroom and kitchen walls, repaired the exterior cedar noticeboard, added new exterior lights and as a final touch had the famous brick steps power washed.”

St Peter’s Rectory benefited from funding in 2021, when heritage windows were refurbished, blinds were replaced and painting was carried out.

Ms Outerbridge added: “The $56,000 also included the painting of the church and church hall roof – booked and financed but not completed.

“We also added a cedar ramp inside the church for wheelchair access to the vestry.”

She added that the heritage fund was supplemented by dues and donations from The Friends of St Peter’s Church as well as individuals and corporations.

Ms Outerbridge said that maintenance and repairs represented 18 per cent of the church budget.

Parishioners were told last October that a decline in the number of visitors and churchgoers because of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the church had reached a financial “crisis point”.

Rick Spurling, The Friends of St Peter’s Church chairman, said last week that the heritage fund support met “only part of the financial needs of the church”.

He added: “We need a lot of additional support until we can get our feet on the ground and get the Friends Annual Fund established for the additional support required going forward, which will financially stabilise the church.”

The heritage fund figures showed that a total of $71,464 was paid out for a trash truck in 2018 and 2019.

Ms Foggo, said last week: “That was a big discussion within the council – whether or not the purchase of a trash truck qualified.

“From my position, as the operations manager … it’s maintenance of the town.”

Charity continues educational initiatives despite closure of heritage centre

Projects by a charity to preserve East End history continued despite the closure of the World Heritage Centre.

The St George’s Foundation vowed last year to keep telling the island’s stories after it handed back the keys of the Queen’s Warehouse at Penno’s Wharf to the Corporation of St George.

Cheryl Hayward-Chew, the SGF chairwoman, shared highlights that featured in a report for the foundation’s Annual General Meeting, held in November.

They showed that activities over the previous 12 months included the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Parks.

The agreement formalised “how SGF and Government work together for the preservation of world heritage site assets” and aimed to provide “training opportunities for young Bermudian trade apprentices”.

Work by the foundation to preserve Ferry Point Park, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Works, included a clean-up at Ferry Island Fort and the launch of a capital project to restore the nearby gunpowder magazine perimeter wall, at a budgeted cost of $42,000.

The document shared by Ms Hayward-Chew said: “It is feared that the perimeter wall will collapse in the next hurricane, a prime example of the deterioration of Bermuda’s WHS assets.

“SGF welcomes donations to support this capital project in order for us to not divert funds from our important WHS education programme implementation.”

It explained that in partnership with the parks department, Fort St Catherine and the St Regis Hotel, “plans are being formulated for the clean-up and restoration plans for Fort Albert, Fort Victoria and Fort William”.

The report added: “Of particular priority are areas that are structurally compromised.”

Ms Hayward-Chew said last week that an application for a grant from the Unesco World Heritage Fund was made in December 2020 but was turned down.

She added: “ … as a registered charity formed to support the Unesco WHS, the Corporation of St George’s view was SGF should raise funds independently and not draw from the Unesco WHF.”

The foundation shuttered the Queen’s Warehouse that same month.

Ms Hayward-Chew highlighted that the decision to close the centre had been “under consideration for many years”.

She added: “For the past several years, SGF has implemented creative initiatives to move to a viable operating model, difficult when balancing high ongoing maintenance costs for such a large ageing building.

“In 2020 SGF considered stakeholder feedback against its mission to support Bermuda’s Unesco World Heritage Site through collaboration, education and awareness.

“It was decided that the best use of its resources was to directly support the WHS assets, being the Historic Town of St George and its related fortifications, versus supporting indirectly through the WHC.”

Candy-Lee Foggo, the Corporation’s town manager, said last week that it was hoped any new tenant at Queen’s Warehouse will “add to the revitalisation of the town”.

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Published December 31, 2021 at 7:55 am (Updated December 31, 2021 at 7:18 am)

Heritage fund paid out $1.5m to projects in East End, figures show

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